CyprusIt's one of the most militarized areas on the planet. It's home to the world's only divided capital. Since Turkey illegally invaded the island in 1974, northern Cyprus has been filled with abandoned "ghost cities" and 40,000 armed Turkish troops. In July 2012, for the first time ever, Cyprus will hold the rotating presidency of the European Union. Will there finally be a resolution to "the Cyprus problem"?
Imagine if a country sent its fleet of ships to the United States, stormed America’s beaches, and proceeded to take control of the northern third of our nation. Imagine that Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and dozens of other cities were occupied by foreign armed forces and that everyone originally residing in those cities was forced to flee south, abandoning their ancestral homes and private property in the process.
That is the harsh reality Cypriots have lived since 1974.
In the summer of 1974, Turkish forces invaded the Republic of Cyprus. The takeover of the northern third of the island was swift and brutal. Hundreds of thousands of Cypriots fled their homes, triggering a massive humanitarian crisis that exists to this day.
Why did Turkey invade Cyprus?
Cypriots of Greek and Turkish decent lived peacefully side by side for hundreds of years. During a period of intercommunal tension, Turkey hatched plans to partition Cyprus. On July, 20, 1974, under the pretense of protecting Turkish Cypriots and restoring the constitutional government of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey invaded the island and occupied about 4 percent of Cyprus. On August 14, 1974, three weeks after the constitutional government of Cyprus was restored, Turkey launched a second phase of its invasion. The final result was Turkish occupation of 38% of Cyprus, 170,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees, and approximately 1,500 missing Greek-Cypriots.
What does the international community say about Cyprus?
The reaction to Turkey’s illegal seizure of Cyprus territory and its treatment of the Cypriot people received immediate and widespread disapproval by the international community. The United Nations Security Council adopted nine resolutions within forty days after the invasion, calling for “immediate end to foreign military intervention,” demanding the immediate removal of occupying forces from the island, and recording its “formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus.” You can read the U.N.’s resolution on Cyprus here.
Since then, the United Nations and the European Parliament have repeatedly called on Turkey to withdraw its forces from Cyprus and to transfer Famagusta to the United Nations in accordance with Resolution 550 (1984) of the United Nations Security Council. The European Court of Human Rights has consistently found Turkey in violation of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights due to its actions in Cyprus Turkey refuses to comply with international law. The self-declared “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is recognized only by Turkey. No other country in the world acknowledges occupied Cyprus as an independent state.
What’s the solution to the Cyprus problem?
The only viable solution is one by Cypriots, for Cypriots. The Cypriot people deserve a free republic, one without foreign troops patrolling their streets and one where they have the right to return to their homes.
The Republic of Cyprus is committed to a settlement between the two communities and a reunified state with a single sovereignty and international personality, as defined by relevant Security Council resolutions, as the goal. A united Cyprus is the only solution that respects the sovereignty of that nation and the history of its people.
Unfortunately, Turkey continues to oppose such a solution. In blatant disregard for international law, Turkey has chosen to colonize Cyprus by sending hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens to live in Cypriot homes and neighborhoods.
The U.N. is again holding a series of talks aimed at bringing stability and peace to the island. These talks have taken on a heightened sense of urgency, as Cyprus is slated to take the rotating presidency of the European Union in July 2012.
Why is Cyprus so important to America’s foreign policy?
The Republic of Cyprus has proven itself a reliable partner to the United States on issues of international concern, including countering terrorist-related activities and threats to international peace and security. Cyprus – with the world’s sixth largest ship registry – was the first European Union country to permit the U.S. navy to board and search ships bearing its flag if they are thought to carry WMD-related material. Throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cyprus has provided over-flight and landing rights to U.S. aircraft and port access for U.S. ships. Furthermore, during the Lebanon crisis of 2006, Cyprus served as the principal transit location for thousands of U.S. citizens evacuating Lebanon. In 2009, the Republic of Cyprus, in close cooperation with the U.S., halted a shipment of arms believed intended for Hamas from Iran.
Recently, a large deposit of natural gas has been discovered off of Cyprus’s shores. An American company, Noble Energy, is leading the exploration of that natural resource. Turkey has threatened to send its warships into the area to prevent Cyprus (and Noble Energy) from undertaking the project. For America’s national security and for its economic interest, Turkey’s occupation of and threats against Cyprus must end.
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We are all prisoners of knowledge. To know how Cyprus was betrayed, and to have studied the record of that betrayal, is to make oneself unhappy and to spoil, perhaps for ever, one’s pleasure for visiting one of the world’s most enchanting islands. Nothing will ever restore the looted treasures, the bereaved families, the plundered villages, the groves and hillsides scalded with napalm. Nor will anything mitigate the record of the callous, and crude politicians who regarded Cyprus as something on which to scribble their inane and conceited designs. But fatalism would be the worst betrayal of all. The acceptance, the legitimization of what was done – those things must be repudiated. Such a refusal has a value beyond Cyprus in showing that acquiescence in injustice is not ‘realism’. Once the injustice has been set down and described, and called by its right name, acquiescence in it becomes impossible. That is why one writes about Cyprus in sorrow but more – much more – in anger. - Christopher Hitchens, “Hostage in History: Cyprus” 1997